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Ready meals: quick, easy and, in my experience, tasteless.
Whilst I may not be the biggest fan of microwave dinner, I am however a huge fan of spaghetti carbonara.
Creamy, cheesy, pasta goodness- what’s not to love?
With the simple yet scrumptious dish also ranking as one of the UK’s favourite ready meals, I decided to suck up my pride and try a few out.
Typically, a proper carbonara simply consists of pepper, Parmesan and egg. However, (and much to Gino D’Acampo’s horror) the carbonaras you find in British stores are usually particularly creamy – so I’ll have to accept this as a standard.
I headed to Asda, M&S and Tesco to pick up their own brand ready meals.
Let’s be honest, this is not exactly appealing – it’s even so creamy it actually developed a skin, making my stomach turn a little. The generous helping of bacon lardons are crying out to be cooked a little more to render that congealed fat.
Asda’s offering of sauce has just whispers of pepper and an absence of cheesiness coating the well-cooked strands of spaghetti. It’s enjoyable and easy but lacking excitement.
It definitely looks worse than it tastes, but mostly it just tastes like a bacon-infused cream. As far as ready meals go, I’d call this not too shabby.
Instantly, this one smelt a lot cheesier and it translated through to the flavour. The bacon was less fattier too, yet more porky than smoky.
Avoiding blandness, the good people at M&S have treated us to actual seasoning with a strong taste of pepper. However, always seeming to do something weird, they added a strong hum of nutmeg. I can’t see the justification for this and frankly feel offended by its presence.
Rather glossy, with a subtlety of gooey cheese in the texture, the sauce runs somewhat watery.
I’m not sure this is something a supermarket should be aiming for, but Tesco’s offering smelt exactly like the hospital kitchen I used to work in. And that sets the tone for the rest of it.
Whilst there’s bigger crunches of peppercorns in this sauce, it tastes truly awful. Chewy pasta is caked in a thick sauce with little watery puddles pooling in the off-tasting cream.
Even the bacon tasted watery yet somehow bodied a dry texture. Not ok.
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Tesco have embarrassingly lost this battle. They managed to create a sauce that is tasteless yet also gross.
Asda gave a good fight with their average sauce and average taste.
But M&S take the carbonara crown. Simply because they attempted to flavour their sauce- even if I don’t agree with the rogue use of nutmeg.
To be honest, all this has done for me is confirm that although I understand the ease of speed; ready meals depress me. Here’s to the continuing satisfaction of making my own carbonara.
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